International praise for Product Design student at DMU

Innovative ideas to improve pedestrian crossings have earned Dan Sawford a coveted commendation in the international RSA Student Design Awards 2020.


The Product Design MA student from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) will be celebrated alongside the other finalists and winners during an online awards ceremony today.

“It’s a proud moment and feels very rewarding thinking back to where I’ve come from and what I’ve achieved,” said the 25-year-old from Kettering.

Dan’s commended project started out as a desire to improve travel for the elderly population.

He said: “I went back to the basics, spoke to lots of people and did a lot of research. One area which kept coming up as lacking in innovation was pedestrian crossings. For 11 weeks I looked at what already exists and how it could be improved.”

Dan's commended pedestrian crossing design

Featuring a side mounting style, Dan’s modern design provides a 100 percent increase in the surface area available to display warning systems.

The larger size can accommodate new technologies such as a countdown display, lighting to illuminate the ground and a slow crossing option giving those with mobility issues more time.

Despite his recent success and studying at both undergraduate and postgraduate level at DMU, Dan found the idea of going to university ‘daunting’ when he was at school. It was only after being diagnosed with bowel disease at the age of 18 that he had a change of heart.

“I had a year out because of my illness but I came out of it a much more motivated and dedicated person. I realised that maybe I could go to uni and product design seemed like a natural progression for me as I was always making things,” he said.

3D printed planter designed by Dan

When he graduated from DMU with a Product Design BSc (Hons), Dan received a 3D printer from his dad as a gift, which was the catalyst to him launching his business called Dimensional Designs.

From candle holders and planters to jewellery storage and free-standing letters/numbers, Dan designs, makes and sells a range of 3D-printed homeware on Etsy.

He said: “I’ve been co-running Dimensional Designs for two years now and it’s been a great way to make an income and develop my skills at the same time.

“I’ve also learnt how to take my business to the next level and I’m currently assessing ways to enhance it thanks to the business modules available on my MSc.”

Ghost figure featured in Dan's 3D printed range

Alongside his studies and running a successful business, Dan has also worked as a part-time technician in DMU’s resource centre.

“During my undergraduate degree I did a year’s placement with a design consultancy. As valuable as it was, I realised that due to my medical condition and my family’s farming background, working in an office environment wouldn’t suit my lifestyle,” he said.

“Being able to work and gain academic experience while studying at DMU has been brilliant. My aim is to build a career where I can divide my time between teaching and running my own business.”

Dan also praised the university’s ethos and staff: “DMU has been great – it’s a very inclusive place and you’re encouraged to do well. My tutors knew what direction I wanted to go in and gave me lots of relevant opportunities.

“I’m going to miss it, but not for long hopefully, as I’m thinking of coming back to do a PhD.”

Posted on Thursday 30 July 2020

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